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Coping during COVID-19: Back to Basics

Establishing a wholesome foundation for our basic health needs is of vital importance at any given time. One may argue that this is especially true during a pandemic, where anxiety and fear threaten to infiltrate our thoughts and emotional experiences at every turn. There are a few fundamental health habits which have been shown to positively impact on our mental health and our ability to effectively manage our emotions.

If we think of our mental health as something which we can build on, attend to, or bolster, a secure foundation may be needed. If the foundation is insecure or unstable, it may be more challenging for us to engage other healthy coping techniques effectively. There are four pathways that contribute to this basic foundation of overall health and wellness. This includes physical activity, nutrition, sleep hygiene and social support.

While many have taken to exercising during the lockdown period, a large portion of people have found themselves struggling to get out of bed. We’re living through a pandemic, and it may be incredibly challenging to attend to our physical health and activity levels right now. Be kind to yourself and start with wherever you’re at right now. If some light stretching or a walk around your room is all you can muster at the moment – that’s perfectly fine. Physical activity can support our mood by releasing chemicals in the brain that make us feel more relaxed, thereby reducing anxiety and depression as well as enhancing self-esteem.

Many of us have felt the brunt of someone that was ‘hangry’, or maybe you yourself have been on the ‘hangry’ warpath before. The irritability we may feel when hungry is biologically driven but also shows up in our emotions and behaviours. This may consequently have a negative impact on our relationships and productivity. Maintaining a healthy, balanced, and nutritious intake of food to supply our bodies with nutrients serves as a protective factor with regards to our mental health.

Establishing healthy sleeping habits, such as limiting screen time before bed, avoiding excessive naps and maintaining a regular sleep schedule is of paramount importance. Proper sleep hygiene allows our bodies and minds the time to rest, which improves our immune system and serves as a buffer to mood regulation difficulties.

The paradox of this moment is that while social distancing is required to curb the spread of COVID-19, it may lead to feelings of social isolation and emotional withdrawal. Although we are required to be socially distanced, we do not have to be socially disconnected. Reach out to a friend, call or text them. Join online interest or support groups. We have the benefit of being able to reach others from the comfort and safety of our homes or workplaces.

By checking in with yourself around these four basic pathways, and assessing your basic health needs, you allow the space to start building on a fairly secure foundation. A secure foundation of basic health and wellness empowers us to further develop effective coping strategies.

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